Tom Schroeder was named DSES Volunteer of the Year for 2014/2015. He’s been an active and effective volunteer since 2008, logging a remarkable total of more than 1500 winter and summer hours since then.
“My motivation to join DSES was driven by my intent to leave the Silicon Valley hi-tech world in 2010. I wanted to find my ‘next career’ and focus on outdoor activities (hopefully in Mammoth Lakes) and giving back to people. DSES seemed to be a logical fit”, Tom recalls.
As planned, Tom left the hi-tech world in April 2010, after years of commuting to Mammoth for holidays and weekends from the Bay Area. Since then, he and his wife Hilary, who also has earned numerous DSES awards for her volunteer efforts, have lived primarily in Mammoth Lakes.
In addition to logging many volunteer hours, Tom became certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America for Adaptive, Alpine, Nordic, and Children’s instruction. He also has donated or raised through friends over $55,000 for DSES. Another exceptional contribution he and Hilary make is opening their home and hosting many volunteer receptions, parties and recognition events.
“The payback for involvement in DSES, is having the ability to change people’s lives while enjoying the beautiful outdoor Eastern Sierra environment. There’s nothing that can match the thank you from a returning veteran for enabling him or her to regain the thrill of achievement and feeling of empowerment on the difficult return to health and civilian life. Tears in the eyes of parents of autistic children and other kids with disabilities, when they see their child skiing independently for the first time, speaks to the enormity of the accomplishment. These children spend their lives constrained by the limitations of their condition, but on the ski slope or on a kayak trip, with our support, they become just another kid”, Tom reflected.
“I greatly appreciate the Volunteer of the Year Award”, says Tom, “but the satisfaction from involvement in DSES is not from receiving awards, it’s from changing people’s lives.” He also stated “Every volunteer should receive a’volunteer of the day’ award each time they go out with a student athlete.” Tom often expresses his appreciation to the DSES staff for training and administration of the program so instructors like him can do the fun part of helping turn lives around in the great outdoors.
While Tom says his first love is Mammoth and DSES, we note he’s also giving back in other ways. Tom is co-founder of the Silicon Valley Boiler Innovation Group which includes 44 Silicon Valley Purdue Alumni who mentor Purdue students and faculty on launching ventures based upon their academic work. He’s also a member of the Coral Reef Alliance Advisory Council.
As to the future, Tom’s expects to continue volunteering with DSES for a long time. He says, “as each disability is unique, each new day and each new student presents unique challenges. Every day we need to identify and apply the right level of skills building and challenge for our exceptional student athletes.”
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Kathy Copeland ©2015
National Wounded Warrior Center
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546